With the mass use of mobile phones and other accessible forms of communication, ham radios are becoming less and less popular. Yet, there are still people getting into ham radio – either for mere interest or for security reasons.
If you’re one of these people looking to learn how to use a ham radio, you may want to learn about the best ham radio for beginners.
We’re going to review some of the highest-quality models available out there. Then we’re going to explain how you can pick the ideal one following a few aspects.
Want to learn everything there’s to know about starter ham radios? Then keep reading!
Top 6 Best Ham Radios for Beginners
While looking for quality ham radios to review, we found six models that were hard to dismiss. Each one of the following ham radios is an excellent piece worth your while. Take a look:
1. ICOM 2300H Amateur Radio
With a perfect score, the ICOM 2300H is the best starter ham radio we could find. There’s simply no match to its quality – both in overall capacity and array of features.
The first thing you’ll notice is an incredible 144 MHz radio frequency, so you get a VHF band model. That’s enough to handle most amateur operations, getting next-level results in almost any situation.
Another excellent feature is the 3-inch LCD screen, it offers the chance to see everything from the volume to the band, the channels, and more. This goes well with the vast array of features that set it apart from the competition.
One of these features is multiple-scan functions. You can scan and get all kinds of data, depending on your needs.
Also, you get 207 alphanumeric memory channels. That’s enough to handle even the most difficult of needs without problems.
Last but not least, you get 65W of output, which is enough to send signals far away and receive everything clearly. You won’t have any problem communicating thanks to the high level of power this radio offers.
- Superb communication with 65W of power output
- Extra-handy 3-inch LCD shows every pinch of data
- Amazingly easy-to-use design with dials & buttons
- Excellent VHF band capacity at 144Mhz for range
- Next-level channel capacity with memory options
2. President Lincoln II Plus Meter Ham Radio
Among the highest-quality brands in the market of ham radios, few can match President when it comes to features and resilience.
This system is an excellent piece for three reasons: it is compatible with HF bands, offers 10 to 12 meters of frequency, and boasts a VFO mode for extra convenience.
For example, you can get up to 35W of output, enough to handle all communications like a charm. Even the farthest and most difficult things will be caught up by the radio.
Another excellent feature is the Mic gain & RF gain dial plus the Scan Mem features. That’s enough to set it apart, adding enough features so you can use the radio however you want.
Then you can also enjoy a volume adjustment knob in the front. There’s the rotary switch for channel selection. And without a doubt, there’s also an LCD display with all the data you need – including frequencies, an S-meter, channels, memory scan data, and more.
Finally, you get a dual-watch feature, a key-locking system, pre-set emergency, SWR or Power Reading, and much more. Even the most demanding user will love this ham radio.
- Top-notch 12-meter radio with VHF and UHF band capacity
- Excellent VFO mode as well as tons of extra features
- Super-practical LCD shows everything you need
- Illuminated buttons allow straightforward operation
- Helpful MIC and RF gain dials for extra convenience
3. Tenway UV-5R Pro 8 Two Way Radio
For those who want to take on adventures in the wilderness and need a portable model, the best handheld ham radio for survival will come like a charm. And sure enough, the UV-5R Pro 8 from Tenway is precisely that kind of radio.
At first sight, you’ll see the ham radio offers a dual-band system. With both VHF at 136-to-174Mhz and UHF at 400-to-520Mhz – this system is hugely practical for almost any user. And this matches well with the FM system, going to 65-to-108Mhz as necessary.
When it comes to power options, this radio doesn’t disappoint either. You get a three-level power system, so you can take the settings from High at 8W to Low at 1W, or Mid at 4W. You can decide whether you want maximum power for superb clarity or the lowest one to save battery.
This battery offers 1,800mAh, and it is rechargeable. So you won’t have any problem getting the most out of the ham radio in difficult far-away situations like camping adventures and the like.
Similarly, you get an extended additional battery if you want at 3,800mAh, which increases the lifespan even more. You can use this radio for hours on end.
Considering the high-end speaker, the crystal clear mic, and the high-gain NA-771 antenna – this handheld radio is easily the best you’ll find.
- The handheld design offers extra portability
- Exceptional batteries at 1,800 and 3,800mAh
- Superb band compatibility for any use
- Next-level power options for efficiency
- High-quality antenna for extra range and quality
4. TYT TH-7800 50W Dual Band Ham Radio
A ham radio that will never let you down – that’s what you get with the TH-7800 from TYT. It is a complete radio for those who want maximum performance – from excellent range and frequencies to next-level audio quality.
Let’s start with the console. You get a machine where you can control everything from the volume to the output power as needed. It comes alongside an LCD screen that shows you every single piece of useful data like channels and bands.
Another excellent feature to enjoy is the overall channel capacity, you get a total of 809 channels to save up. This pairs up well with the dual-band system, so you can work via VHF at 144-148Mhz or UHF at 420-450Mhz. But you still get AM and FM if needed.
As for power, you get up to 35W at 430Mhz or 50W at 144Mhz. That’s enough to enjoy excellent communication at any time.
If all that wasn’t enough, you still get a high-quality antenna that can reach 50 Ohms of impedance. That means you get fantastic sound quality and reach, so your communication limits get even better.
Considering the buttons, the screen, the tons of features, reach, frequencies, and power – this is easily one of the best ham radios you can get.
- Unbeatable 50W of power output
- Excellent dual-band compatibility for convenience
- Effortless controls for beginners to learn fast
- Bright and practical LCD screen
- Excellent audio quality and a top-notch range
5. Kenwood TM-281A FM Transceiver
Want to enjoy maximum quality in almost every aspect possible? Then you’ll want to consider the Kenwood amateur radio TM-281A.
There’s almost no radio as quality-oriented and well-made at such a decent cost. You get a wide array of features, but also a straightforward system that even a beginner can use without any issue.
It all starts with a practical design. You get a small alphanumeric LCD with several buttons and dials around. Each button is illuminated, and with the dials for power and volume, you’ll have no issue setting it up to your needs.
The device still boasts a 200-channel memory system. That’s enough to enjoy exceptional communication and store as many channels as needed for later use.
But that’s not enough, the system also comes with a Weather Alert, an RX system, a CTCSS and DTCS encoder, and decoder, plus much more.
If there’s really that truly sets it apart is the 65W of power. You can enjoy a next-level radio that increases the quality exponentially.
And if you thought that was everything, you also get a small design with a rugged build. Together, they make it the whole radio a lot more portable and adventure-driven. You can take the radio wherever you go without problems. So it is easily one of the best you can get.
- Outstanding power output at 65W for extra range
- A fantastic array of features for the cost
- Ultra-straightforward to operate & portable
- High-quality construction withstand any use
- Excellent cost for the quality
6. AnyTone AT-778UV Dual Band Mobile Radio
If we had to pick the best budget ham radio on the list, we wouldn’t hesitate to choose the AT-778UV from AnyTone.
It takes performance to another level with an exceptional array of features – including a dual-band system with VHF and UHF, plus a rotatable LCD display, and more.
The frequency range is 136 to 174Mhz at VHF but can reach up to 400 to 480Mhz in UHF. This matches with the excellent 25W, 15W, 10W, and 5W of power output – so you can achieve super-clear communication at any moment depending on your needs.
Another excellent feature to consider is the channel memory, offering up to 200 channels if necessary. Yet, it also offers CTCSS compatibility and manages wide and narrow bands.
Still, you won’t have any problem using it. With the TFT LCD and the straightforward controls on the piece, even a beginner can set it up with ease. This matches with the lighted keypad and the small yet useful dial.
If all that didn’t meet your standards, you still get a tremendous built-in cooling fan that prevents overheating, and exceptional speaker and mic quality at every moment.
Taking into account that this is the most affordable model in the list, there’s surely no way to say it is not worth your money. In fact, it is the best value you’ll get from this article.
- Unbeatably cheap for the quality it offers
- Practical dual-band system for any use
- Handy LCD screen and buttons for easy use
- A fantastic array of power options for efficiency
- Durable and resilient despite its affordability
What to Look For While Buying Ham Radio for Beginners?
If you’re looking for the best amateur ham radio, nothing will help you more than reading about the most important factors to consider. Here are some of them:
Power & Battery Life
The power output refers to how much electricity the ham radio uses to send and receive a radio signal. Sure enough, the higher the power, the clearer and more effective the signal sent will be. So you’ll want to look for something with as much power output as possible.
However, it is wise to know that this power is measured in watts. So you’ll want something like 5W to 10W for handheld ham radio. But if you’re going for a console ham radio, then you should go for no less than 30W.
Be aware that the more power the radio has, the more likely it is to run out of battery life fast. So, we also recommend models that have different power output levels like High and Low, so you can get the most out of the battery.
Lastly, consider battery life measurements of no less than 1,500mAh for handheld devices. For the best experience, go for a 3,000mAh battery that can last at least 8 hours continuously.
Memory & Features
Ham radios with excellent memory (channels capacity) are always worth considering. You just want to store at least 500 channels per ham radio for the best experience.
The same happens with models that offer a wide array of features like RF gain, Mic gain, channel saving and naming, plus much more.
Other features like weather, GPS, emergency calls, SOS signals, alarms, and alerts are all useful too. The more features the device has, the better.
Display & Controls
Apart from features and channel capacity, you’ll want to think about the method you wish to use to use them. And that is usually a display, buttons, dials, and overall controls.
That’s why we recommend ham radios with as many controls as possible. While they may look a little bulky and disorganized, these extra controls offer the chance to get almost everything done.
From dials to change volume, to RF gain and MIC gain, VOX and VFO buttons, Scan button, clarifier dial, a menu, and much more. Every single control available that makes the ham radio easier to use is a feature worth having.
Bands & Frequency Range
When you’re looking for the best dual band mobile ham radio, you may think you want something that can work with any band available and deliver next-level convenience. Well, that’s not possible with ham radios for beginners.
However, a dual-band radio is always the way to go – it allows excellent compatibility with different bands so you won’t have to stick to only one.
What this means is that you can pair the radio with HF, VHF, or UHF radio frequencies as needed (only two of these). But of course, it may also offer general radio signals like FM and AM. Probably even SSB and morse code in some cases.
The frequencies should be between 3 and 30Mhz for HF, 110, and 300Mhz for VHF and between 400 and 520Mhz for UHF. We’re going to explain this more deeply below.
Range & Antenna
If you genuinely want a ham radio to communicate, then you’ll want to think about the range it offers. There’s nothing like a ham radio that can reach 10 miles so you can communicate with people far away.
But of course, this depends heavily on the frequency range of the piece, the power output, and the place you are (city or country). And probably the most crucial factor of all to receive ideal range, the antenna.
A quality antenna will increase the ham radio range exponentially. So you’ll want something that can match the power of the piece with enough length (no less than 3 inches of length for better range). That should be enough to communicate from far away.
Build & Waterproof Rating
The last thing to think about if you want the best ham radio transceiver is the quality of the piece itself. And that means how well it can handle impacts, rain, moisture, wind, dust, dirt, and whatever else it is exposed to.
Without going deep into unnecessary details, you should go for no less than an IP67 waterproof rating for the best experience. This will help you prevent any problem you could have with the radio (especially for adventures in the wilderness).
Similarly, go for a sturdy radio that can handle falls and other similar damage without breaking. So be sure it is made of hard plastic that won’t break down quickly.
Ham Radio Frequencies: Know Before You Decide!
So, we already explained a few things about frequencies and bands, but we didn’t go deep so you can be thoroughly clear before choosing. Well, we decided to explain them all here.
Here are the different types of frequencies you’ll find and how they differ:
Low Frequency (LF)
This is the lowest type of frequency available. You won’t find radios with this type of frequency, as they’re usually reserved for commercial operations only.
An LF frequency can also be called a 2,200 meters frequency. It operates in frequencies of about 135.7 to 137.8Khz (Kilohertz).
Medium Frequency (MF)
Another band that doesn’t include ham radios is the medium frequency or HF. This can be a 630 or 160-meter frequency and can go from 472Khz to 2000Khz or what’s also known as 2Mhz.
This MF frequency is also reserved for commercial AM broadcasting. However, this one tends to be pretty noisy, and its propagation less effective. So it’s rarely used.
High Frequency (HF)
Now, it’s the time for the frequencies you will indeed find some use for with your ham radios. And the first one is the High Frequency or HF.
This frequency goes from 3.5Mhz up to 29.7Mhz. Because it is a high frequency instead of a low or medium one, it is actually less reserved and can be used by almost anyone.
Most ham radios with HF frequencies are either 10 meters (28 to 29.7Mhz) or 12 meters (24.89 to 27.99Mhz). But you’re likely to find 15 meters, 17 meters, 20 meters, 40 meters, and even 60 and 80 meters (which are all less common).
Very High Frequency (VHF)
Then you’ll find VHF or Very High Frequencies. These are frequencies that go as low as 6 meters to 1.25 meters.
That means you can make it work with 50Mhz up to 300Mhz. That’s enough to handle standard signals so most people can enjoy decent communication quality without using much power.
Ultra-High Frequencies (UHF)
Lastly, you’ll find the UHF or Ultra High Frequencies. These are anything that goes over 300Mhz and up to 3000Mhz. These frequencies go from 70 centimeters to as low as 13 centimeters.
What makes these frequencies stand out is the ability to reach exceptional audio quality at very high frequencies. So anyone with a license can enjoy superb quality communication with the ham radio.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
After taking a deep look into every ham radio in our reviews, learning with our buying guide, and understanding radio frequencies – you’re probably still confused about some things. Well, we want to get rid of those confusions with the following questions and answers:
1. Ham radio what is it?
As a device, the ham radio refers to a small receiver that can send high-frequency signals and receive them. It helps to deliver long-range communication, yet most people use them as a hobby, experimenting, training, and in some cases, as a means to alert in emergencies.
The term “ham” comes from a negative term that the first radio users used to describe people with little radio skills.
Those who didn’t know how to operate radios and Morse code systems correctly were called Ham-fisted users. Since then, the term ham stuck to the activity, and later it was adopted by the device.
Today, ham radios are officially the type of radios that amateurs and beginners would use. They’re not the most powerful or the most effective, but they get the job done.
2. How to get into ham radio?
While ham radio seems like a straightforward product to use (that anyone can get and operate), it is not. Ham radios are actually a little complicated and usually require licenses to be operated (mainly in countries like the US and Canada).
To get into ham radio, you will need a US mailing address, a Taxpayer Identification Number, and a Social Security Number.
Apart from these requirements, you will need to get your license. This license will only be available after you pass an array of tests. You will likely have to study and learn a lot about ham radio and communication to get this license.
Still, the process tends to be quick, easy and takes little to no investment. Once you get the license, then you’re free to do whatever you want with the ham radio (as long as it is not illegal).
3. How to learn ham radio?
The best way to learn ham radio is to use them. But for that, it is usually required to find a teacher that can explain the basics first. Another excellent way is to get a license, but while necessary, this can be a little more time-consuming and costly.
Still, communicating through ham radio is not necessarily a difficult thing to do. Almost anyone with little to no experience can learn how to use one in a week or less.
4. What’s the best handheld ham radio?
While it is not easy to tell with so many quality ham radios available in the market, we can freely say that the Tenway UV-5R Pro 8 is the best handheld ham radio you can get.
5. Do I need a car for a mobile ham radio?
You don’t need a car to use a mobile radio. Even though ham radios usually come in receiver-like designs that may fit in a single-DIN space on vehicles – they’re actually not ideal for cars.
We recommend setting up hand radios in homes, offices, bases, or similar places. However, if you’re using a handheld or mobile ham radio, then using them in a car won’t be a bad idea either. But to use them in movement, it is usually necessary to have an excellent antenna.
6. How much range do ham radios offer?
It really depends on the quality of the ham radio, the power output, the antenna length, as well as the place you are sending/receiving the signal from.
For example, expensive high-end ham radios can send signals through HF bands that can reach over 10 miles or even more of total range. This can be ideal for emergency signals and other types of critical communication.
But a cheap ham radio with a UHF band may not send the signal for more than a couple of miles. This may happen because the signal is not strong enough, and it probably doesn’t have that much power.
Overall, though, you can expect even the most affordable ham radio to offer at least 2 miles of total range. A high-end model may reach 10 miles or more.
When it comes to communicating via radio, nothing beats a ham radio. The efficiency and practicality one of these radios offer is unmatched.
If you’re a beginner, then you’ll love having something easy-to-use and effective – like the best ham radio for beginners on this list.
So don’t hesitate to pick one of the different models we talked about in this article. They offer everything you could need and a little more.
Just remember to consider our buying guide, our doubt-relieving section, and each one of our reviews. Then you’re likely to find the perfect ham radio for your needs.